People need love and validation. Hand-holding benefits us in that it satisfies this basic need. On top of that, our hands communicate accurate and unambiguous information with others through touch, owing to their extensive sensory capabilities. According to experts, humans are the only species capable of meaningful dialogue via their hands.
“To touch is to give life.”Michaelangelo
1. Hand-holding is natural and essential non-verbal communication
One of the first things a baby learns is to hold hands. An infant will naturally grab hold of their caregiver’s finger when offered. Studies show that this instinctual activity is actually a powerful form of communication. During hand-holding, nerves in our skin link to our central nervous system, sending all manner of messages that we process subconsciously.
Charles Nelson, PhD has published various studies on the effect of adverse conditions on human development, particularly in children. He found that children who had never been hugged, touched or cuddled exhibited severely stunted growth and other physical maladies. A lack of human touch in adults can lead to depression and anxiety.
Like eye contact, this form of communication can be more powerful than words. One Berkeley study on NBA teamwork showed that teams that exhibited more physical contact got higher scores and more wins, suggesting the subconscious transmission of information through hand-holding.
2. A sense of security, support
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It’s not just children who feel more secure when someone has their hand. Hand-holding lets us know we are not alone, and builds feelings of confidence and trust. It can help us face emergencies, overcome fear, and support one another through tough times.
The sense of security that parents offer their kids by holding their hands has a positive impact on their conduct and mindset, benefitting the family as a whole; while a mother who has hold of her child’s hand feels naturally at ease.
3. Physical and emotional comfort
Humans have a natural response to tense their muscles when in pain. Consider childbirth: men are often in the delivery room holding their wife’s hand as she goes through labor. It’s always easier to bear pain when you’ve got a hand to squeeze. It is common for nurses to hold the hands of their patients to help ease their suffering.
Psychologist Becky Spelman says “In all cultures, we tend to hold hands with someone who is grieving or in pain as a way of indicating our support to them. In very difficult circumstances, even complete strangers may grasp one another’s hand to comfort and engage with one another. Survivors of crash landings, for example, often describe reaching out for the hand of the person sitting next to them.”
4. Reduced stress and better sleep
Studies show that holding hands helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol, alleviating physical and emotional tension and anxiety. Researchers at the University of Virginia studied the reduction of stress levels in response to hand-holding.
Women from 16 heterosexual couples were connected to a device that would send an electric shock to their ankles and record the response in the brain. When the women held hands with their partner or husband, the reaction was significantly reduced. Similarly, the women felt less pain from mild burns when they held their partners’ hands, and more pain when the partners were not in the room.
Holding hands may provide a sense of serenity in your daily life, and improve the quality of your sleep. Falling asleep holding hands is sure to bring a more restful night.
5. Demonstrates affection and kindness
Holding hands is a simple way to strengthen the bonds between people. This activity has a favorable influence overall. It provides opportunities to nurture effective relationships with your parents, friends, children and your spouse.
Holding hands is a symbol of the bond between two people who care for each other. Couples who maintain physical contact consistently express more satisfaction in their relationships.
“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends. That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.”yogi Paramahansa Yoganand
6. Reduces Blood Pressure
When you hold hands, you are also helping to keep your heart in good condition. Reduced stress often goes ‘hand in hand’ with lowered blood pressure, another advantage of holding hands. When blood pressure can be controlled, it may also reduce the risk of heart disease.
Simone Jonker contributed to this report.